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Car Seat Ponchos for Safety and Warmth

Here in Pennsylvania, we’re still enjoying summer weather with temperatures in the high 80s, but these warm summer days will soon be a memory.  When the temperatures start to fall, how can you keep your little ones warm and safe for fall and winter traveling?

You may need to swap out that heavy winter coat for a cozy car seat poncho.
Car Seat Poncho

Until a few years ago, I had no idea that buckling an infant or child into a car seat while he is wearing a winter coat is not safe.  A puffy winter coat will prevent the car seat straps from fastening tightly enough to keep a little one safe.  Here’s an article from Consumer Reports that explains exactly what can happen when a child is buckled into his car seat while wearing his winter coat.  (Consumer Reports article) 

Car Seat ponchoA car seat poncho can be worn on a child over the car seat buckles rather than under them.  The poncho drapes over the back of the car seat, and the front of the poncho covers the child keeping him or her warm and cozy while in the car.
car seat ponchoLast winter when I found this pattern designed by Stitch Upon a Time, I knew I needed to make one for my granddaughter Aaliyah.  Her parents were already putting safety first and buckling her into her car seat without her coat.  They used a common technique which was to remove her jacket when she got in the car and then cover her over with it.  The problem with that was that the coat would often slip off onto the floor.

I made her a car seat poncho, and she and her parents loved it!  I used two layers of anti-pill fleece for comfort and warmth.  The poncho zips up the front and includes a hood.  I added hand slits so that Aaliyah can hold a book or toy.  She liked it so much that I decided to offer these for sale on my Facebook page and in my Etsy shop this fall.

car seat ponchoI’ve got lots of beautiful fleece fabric, and I’ll be listing the ponchos on Facebook and Etsy in the next couple of weeks.  The ponchos that I’m making range in size from 3-6 months to size 8, and they aren’t just for traveling in the car.  They are perfect for other fall and winter activities.  If you’d like more information on prices and fabrics and how to place an order, please “like” my Facebook page so you won’t miss their debut.

The ponchos meet CPCS safety requirements for children.

I want to send a special thank you to my grandchildren, Aaliyah and Jayden who modeled the ponchos last Sunday when it was ninety degrees here in Pennsylvania.  Don’t worry, we didn’t keep them on them for more than a few minutes!

Enjoy the rest of summer because Old Man Winter’s on his way! 


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The Saga of the Yellow Sand Shovel

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In July our adult granddaughters and their families spent a week vacationing in the Outer Banks.  Aaliyah, our almost-three-year-old great-granddaughter, loved playing in the sand and water.  She especially enjoyed digging in the sand with her yellow sand shovel.  Everyone was having a marvelous vacation until her little yellow sand shovel was left lying too close to the water.

When her yellow sand shovel was swept out to sea, Aaliyah considered it a loss of monumental proportions.  She even claimed that she no longer liked the beach because it stole her yellow shovel from her.  She has a flair for the dramatic, but she comes by that naturally.

In the days and weeks and months that followed their vacation, Aaliyah continued to talk about her yellow shovel.  Isn’t it amazing that an almost-three-year-old can remember the loss of her favorite toy yet can’t remember to put her underpants back on after using the potty?

Fast forward to September when Jack and I took our annual trip to Ocean City, Maryland, with my sister and brother-in-law.  We were enjoying a pleasant day on the beach when Jack happened to find an abandoned and partially buried yellow sand shovel not too far from the water’s edge.  Jack picked up the shovel, and we both knew immediately that this was a Kodak  Facebook moment.

Jack washed off the yellow sand shovel in the surf, and I got my camera ready.  Here’s the picture that I posted on Facebook for Aaliyah and all my Facebook friends to see:

This picture is a little misleading considering Jack found the shovel buried in sand rather than riding a wave in the ocean, but a picture of a dirty, sand-covered shovel just wouldn’t have had the same impact as this heroic shot.  (I already told you that Aaliyah isn’t the only family member with a flair for the dramatic.)

I told Justine to be sure to show the picture to Aaliyah, and she did.  I only wish I could have been there to see her face, but Justine says Aaliyah FLIPPED  when she saw the picture.  She screamed, “My yellow shovel!  Pappy went to get it!  Pappy got my shovel!” 

So that’s the truth about how Jack became a hero just by bending down and picking up an abandoned yellow shovel.  

Is it possible that Aaliyah’s yellow sand shovel made the trip from the Outer Banks in North Carolina to Ocean City, Maryland?  Of course not!  But Aaliyah doesn’t know that, and I’m not going to tell her any time soon.

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Snowman Corduroy Jumper

I really wanted to make a smocked dress for Aaliyah to wear at Christmastime, but I just couldn’t make a decision about which fabric, pattern, and smocking design to use.  When Thanksgiving was upon us and I realized I still hadn’t started a Christmas dress, I knew it was too late.  There was just no way I could start a dress at the end of November and have it ready for December.

My procrastination forced me to move to Plan B.  This is Plan B:Plan B is this green corduroy jumper with a winter applique.  I opted for a simple style that could be sewn together quickly.  Instead of smocking which is labor intensive handwork, I opted for an applique that could be done on the sewing machine.

Rather than use a Christmas theme applique that would be worn only in December, I decided to use a snowman design that can be worn throughout the winter.

This pattern, New Look A6168,  is a cute one with lots of variations.  I’m sure I will be able to use it again and again.  For the jumper, I chose a dark green corduroy–a traditional Christmas color.  For the snowman applique, I chose pink rather than red to avoid that Christmas color theme.  I’m sure Aaliyah will look beautiful in this jumper with a white long sleeve shirt and white tights.

Maybe I’d better get started now on next year’s smocked Christmas dress.

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Fleece Dog Coat

Baby, it’s cold outside!  Don’t forget to bundle up your pup in a fleece dog coat when the temperatures drop this winter!

Since I’ve been doing custom sewing for other people, I’ve made several fleece dog coats for one customer.  This particular customer always orders a fleece dog coat to give to her mother-in-law for Christmas.  The coat is for her mother-in-law’s dog, not for her mother-in-law.

The request was for a dog coat made from Santa fleece, but I was unable to find any fleece fabric with Santas on it.  She had to settle for holly, and she was pleased with that.

The fleece coat is made from two layers of warm and comfy fleece fabric.

All edges of the coat are finished with an overlock stitch done on my serger.  I use my regular sewing machine to attach the belly straps and the hook and loop tape.

Mocha agreed to model the finished project just so you could see the coat on a real live dog.  You’ll be able to see that I made this coat extra long for the chilly dachshund who will be wearing this coat on December 25th.

Isn’t she cute?


Small dog coats  $14
Medium dog coats $19
Large dog coats $26

What do you think about dogs wearing coats?   (To leave a comment, click the link at the top of the post that reads  “Leave a Comment”.)


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An Apple {Bag} for the Teacher

When my oldest granddaughter Ciara got a job as a preschool teacher, she knew she would need a tote bag for carrying all of her teacher supplies. Since she is a teacher at Apple Tree Preschool, an apple theme tote bag was the logical choice.

I was pleased to help out with this because I enjoy making theme bags using novelty fabrics. Ciara had given me free reign with the fabric choice and bag design. Her only stipulations were that it would have apples on it and that it would be large enough to carry her binder and books.

I checked some fabric options online, but I didn’t want to wait for a shipment.  So the next day, I drove to two nearby quilting shops and at my first stop, I found an apple print that I loved!  It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind since I thought I would go with a school/apple theme.  As so often is the case, as soon as I saw this apple fabric, I knew that it was the one that I wanted.

I found two fabrics that coordinated with the apple print, and I was already picturing the tote bag in my mind’s eye. I decided to use my Bow Tucks Tote pattern by Quilts Illustrated, enlarging the bag by a few inches in height and width.










I lined the tote with the same apple fabric and made the interior pockets to match the trim.  I took the liberty of adding a few pockets for pens, pencils, and a lip balm.  The zippered pocket is a feature that I like to add to a snap top purse or tote to keep cash, cards, or personal items secure and hidden.

I couldn’t be more proud of my granddaughter Ciara, and I hope that this apple tote bag helps her keep her teaching supplies organized and ready to use.  Wednesday is Ciara’s first day with her pre-school students, and I’m wishing her a wonderful beginning at Apple Tree Preschool.

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Smocked Baby Bishop for Summer

When it comes to dressing up your baby, a smocked bishop can’t be beat!  You’ll have to agree after seeing this sweet little girl in her yellow floral print bishop.

The term “bishop” refers to this particular style–a round yoke that is smocked the whole way around the neck of the dress.  This is the best style for a small baby, and it is the only style of smocked dress that I have made so far for Aaliyah.


For this particular bishop, I used a 100% cotton floral print from the Moda fabric company.


Here’s a closeup of the smocking.  I was all set to smock this dress in yellow when my sister advised me to smock it in blue so that the stitches would show up better.  I’m glad I took her advice!  I like the blue smocking on this dress.  This photo was taken before I added the tiny white flowers in between the second and fourth rows of smocking.

I used a geometric smocking design based on the smocking plate “Kayla” by Terry Jane Collins.

This happy baby girl looks so beautiful in this little yellow dress!





I can’t resist showing you one more photo of her in her smocked baby bishop.  These portraits were taken by and posted with permission from Stacie Miller Portrait Design.

If you have a special little lady in your life who needs a handsmocked dress, you can contact me for more information on my custom-made handsmocked children’s wear.

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An Appliqued Sundress for My Favorite Baby Girl

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve done any applique work, but what better reason to brush up on applique skills than a new baby granddaughter? 

For the past few months, I’ve been collecting patterns and fabric that would be suitable for baby girl dresses.  Today was the day to let the sewing begin!


I started off with three small cuts of coordinating fabric and one New Look pattern.

These fabrics are 100% cotton coordinates from Riley Blake. I had one yard of the dark pink floral, but just one quarter yard of each of the other two.  I had to do some real maneuvering to get all of the pieces out of those quarter yard cuts even though I was making the dress in the newborn size.



The pattern I chose was New Look 6793.  I paid $2.49 for the pattern.  When I buy an expensive pattern, I always trace the smaller sizes onto tissue paper.  I didn’t do that this time.

This pattern was very quick and easy to put together.  I’m sure that without the applique and some piecing that I had to do because I didn’t have enough fabric, I could have completed the sundress in under an hour.  This took me just over two hours to complete.

The flower applique pattern was included in the pattern.  I like the way the shape of the applique matches the shape of some of the flowers in the fabric.

I am fairly certain that I will be doing more applique in the next few years, so I will have to continue to brush up on my techniques. 


Overall, I’m very pleased with this little sundress.  I hope Aaliyah likes it!


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Tees to Totes

My friend is not a T-shirt wearer, but that doesn’t stop her daughter from picking up cute T-shirts with animal designs that her mom would like. 

My friend’s daughter knows that T-shirts aren’t just for wearing.  Sometimes they are just begging to be transformed into a purse or tote bag.  That’s exactly what happened with this “Mother Hen” T-shirt!

This is not my first Tee to Tote project, so I knew what I needed to do.  The first step is to find fabrics that coordinate with the T-shirt fabric color and the embroidered design. 

Naturally, I wanted to go with chicken themed fabric for this bag. When choosing fabrics, remember the wise words from Stacey and Clinton from What Not to Wear.  The fabrics don’t have to match, they just have to go together.

After I chose the fabrics, I cut out the design from the shirt and stabilized that square with woven fusible interfacing.  I then began to build the front of the purse, adding cuts of fabric until the rectangle was the correct measurement for the pattern I had chosen to use.

When the pieced rectangle was finished, I added Pellon Fusible Thermolam Plus to the back and quilted it using the “stitch-in-the-ditch” method as you can see here.

I had a difficult time deciding on thread color, so I used a light tan thread except for the stitching around the T-shirt piece where I used a matching shade of pink.

Now that the piecing was finished, I constructed the purse per the pattern instructions.  I was using the Baja Traveler pattern from Quilts Illustrated, and the only change I made was to add a zippered pocket on the inside of the bag.  I often add a zippered pocket to purses that will have a magnetic snap closure.  The zippered pocket offers a secure place for a wallet or money.

The other side of the purse is lined with pockets making organization easy.  The pocket and base fabric that you see here was from my fabric stash.  It was not part of my original plan, but I like the way it coordinates with the T-shirt fabric.



For the back of the bag, I used just two prints:  my favorite yellow fabric with the chickens which is a Robert Kaufman print and the egg print. 

I like the way these two prints look together, and I really like the egg print for the handles.  I try to stay away from directional prints like this yellow one for handles since I don’t like to have the chickens upside down or lying on their sides.










This purse with its cute Mother Hen would make a dandy Mother’s Day gift for my friend.  One thing is for sure …. She will get a lot more use from this bag than she would have gotten from the T-shirt. 

This Tee-to-Tote method of constructing a purse offers lots of great options. Why not leave a comment and give me your suggestion for a great Tee-to-Tote project?

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Hand Smocking Is Not a Dying Art

I remember when a Polly Flinders brand smocked dress was the baby gift of choice for baby girls in the 1960s and 1970s when my older sisters were having children.  Though the Polly Flinders company is no longer in existence, a hand smocked dress is still a treasure that every baby girl should own.

I remember twenty years ago seeing a little girl at church wearing a dress that her mother had smocked and sewn for her.  I knew then that this was an art form that I wanted to learn.  That mother invited me to her home and gave me a few smocking lessons, and I was hooked!

This round necked style is called a bishop, and it is my favorite dress for a young baby. 

The smocking frames the baby’s face and combined with a smocked bonnet makes a lovely gift for any new baby girl.



The other most popular style for smocked dresses is this basic yoke dress.  These dresses have a straight yoke and usually a Peter Pan collar.  These dresses are adorable, and the color combinations and smocking designs are endless! 

One of my favorite techniques is to use a solid color for the dress front and back and a contrasting print for the sleeves and collar. 



This very basic geometric smocking design is very pretty with the added flower accents. 

This particular dress was made for a toddler, and this style is perfect for that age and older. 

Hand smocking may not be as prevalent as it once was, but it is not a dying art by any means. 

I do some custom hand smocking work, and if you are interested in a hand smocked dress or bonnet for a special little girl in your life, please contact me for more information.